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News Wrap: Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion Kills at Least 3 in Texas

June 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: At least three people are dead after an explosion in North Central Texas. The blast happened in a rural town of Cleburne some 50 miles southwest of Dallas.

A natural gas pipeline exploded into flames, scorching a vehicle and construction equipment. Local officials believe the line was struck by a digging machine.

People in three Midwestern states began cleaning up today after severe thunderstorms and tornadoes struck over the weekend. Ohio saw the worst damage. The Lake Township area, southeast of Toledo, was particularly battered. At least five people died. Storms there carved a path of destruction some 300 yards wide and 10 miles long, destroying dozens of homes.

The community’s high school was badly damaged, forcing postponement of Sunday’s graduation ceremonies. Twisters also hit Michigan and Illinois, but no deaths were reported.

Bank of America agreed to pay $108 million to reimburse 200,000 homeowners who were charged improper mortgage fees. The overcharges were levied by Countrywide Financial, which was bought by Bank of America in 2008. The payment settles a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission, which said Countrywide targeted homeowners facing foreclosure with exorbitant fees. It’s one of the largest settlements in the commission’s history.

For the record, Bank of America is an underwriter of the “NewsHour.”

In other financial news, stocks tumbled on Wall Street today over continued concern about U.S. consumer spending and Europe — and the European credit crisis. The Dow Jones industrials average lost more than 115 points to close at 9816. The Nasdaq fell 45 points to close just under 2174.

Seven American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today. They died in separate attacks in the east and south. Three other NATO soldiers also were killed. The violence came as Afghan — as the Afghan government defended its decision to oust two of the country’s top security officials.

On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai removed the intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, and interior minister, Hanif Atmar. He said they must be held accountable for last week’s failed Taliban attack on a peace conference in Kabul. None of the delegates was hurt, but two attackers were killed. Today, a spokesman for Karzai justified the move.

WAHEED OMER, Afghan presidential spokesman: This could have been a national chaos, a national crisis. Someone had to take responsibility for this. While we understand that this was a loss for the government, losing two important people, in the meantime, it’s a gain for the people of Afghanistan.

KWAME HOLMAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reacted to the removals while en route to London. He said they do not signal trouble for the Afghan government, but urged Karzai to appoint successors of equal caliber.

Officials in Egypt today declared Israel’s blockade of Gaza a failure. An Egyptian security official said his country will keep its border with the Palestinian territory open indefinitely. Meanwhile, the Israeli navy shot and killed four Palestinian divers off the coast of Gaza today. They were believed to be planning a terror attack on Israel. The militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said the men were members of its marine unit training for a mission.

Chrysler recalled some 600,000 minivans and Jeep Wranglers in the U.S. and 100,000 more abroad. The vehicles have brake and wiring problems that could lead to partial brake loss and fire, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The recalled Wranglers were built from May 2006 through August 2009. The minivans were assembled between February and September 2007. Chrysler said neither problem has caused any crashes or injuries.

One of the most prominent members of the White House press corps, journalist Helen Thomas, retired today in the wake of widely publicized comments she made about Israel. In an impromptu video interview last month, she said Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and that Jews could go home to Germany, Poland, and the United States.

Her remarks were denounced by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who called them offensive and reprehensible. The 89-year-old columnist is leaving her employer, the Hearst News Service, immediately. Known as the dean of the White House press corps, Thomas has been sharply questioning successive presidents since John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.

Those are some of the day’s main stories — now back to Jeff.